MBHO MBNM 440-CLS, April 2004


The MBNM 440-CLS ($439/pair) from German mic-maker MBHO is a small-diaphragm cardioid condenser based on its MBNM 440-CL. The updated version adds a switchable -10dB pad and a -6dB/octave highpass filter at 250 Hz. These are recessed to prevent accidental switching. Like the 440-CL, the 440-CLS has a heavy-duty feel, with a brass, matte-black body, gold-plated XLR pins and a fine-mesh screen protecting the diaphragm. Specs are similar, with a 40-20k Hz response, 14dBA self-noise and 126dB SPL handling. At 3.75x0.8 inches, the MBNM 440-CLS is perfect for discrete instrumental spot-miking. Field and concert recordists will be happy to know that it accepts phantom power between 22 and 48 volts.

The review units arrived as a matched pair with consecutive serial numbers and sounded well-matched. The company intends for the mics to be used on acoustic instruments and choirs, as well as drum overheads and percussion. As I planned to record a local theater company rehearsing and performing an operetta, I jumped at the chance to put these to the test. Due to space limitations, I used a Spartan system, going direct to disk using an Apogee Mini-Me preamp connected to my Mac PowerBook via USB.

The highly directional mics had positive aspects, but were less desirable in some situations. An X/Y coincident pair pointed at the front of the stage provided a nice representation of the stereo space. On playback, it was easy to hear where the singers and instrumentalists were positioned. The mics have a slight HF presence boost, which in this setting helped maintain intelligibility of the vocal parts. The mics’ directionality, however, downplayed the room sound, giving the recordings a somewhat 2-D feel. Nonetheless, the mics’ good transient response helped make these recordings sparkle. The two MBNM 440-CLSs captured lower frequencies in a reserved, polite manner, although I wouldn’t characterize them as sounding thin.

In the studio using an FMR Audio RNP8380 preamp, the MBNM 440-CLS worked well on snare drum, emphasizing stick attack over shell tone. It was even better on rack toms, where directionality helped isolate the drums from surrounding cymbals. On dumbek and other hand drums, fingersnaps on the heads and the tone of the shells were nicely captured. As stereo drum overheads, the mics tended to emphasize the sizzle in the cymbals, which overshadowed the drums’ midrange tone. Consequently, exact placement was crucial to get a good balance between the two (though I still added some LF EQ at mixdown). Once placed, the mics offered good directionality and an up-front quality that, again, minimized the room sound. The MBNM 440-CLS was especially nice on acoustic guitar, where its transient response and clarity balanced the strings’ complex harmonics with the upper-midrange sound of the body. In addition, the mic’s understated low end was helpful when it came time to place the instrument into a mix.


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Millennium Biltmore Hotel, Los Angeles, California, US